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The Wind Chill effect: when the wind cools us down by tricking our perception

The wind chill effect is a perfect example of how science can explain the simple joys of life. We all love a summer breeze. After a sweltering day, there’s something incredibly refreshing about feeling the air move around us, taking away the accumulated sense of heat. But why do we feel so refreshed when the wind blows?

The answer lies in a phenomenon known as the “wind chill effect.”


The concept of wind chill has relatively recent origins. It was first introduced in the 1940s by two Antarctic explorers, Paul Siple and Charles Passel, who, while conducting research on the frozen continent, studied how the wind influenced the rate at which a container of water froze.

The term “wind chill” is often associated with cold winter gusts, but the basic concept also applies to hot days. The wind chill effect describes the difference between the actual air temperature and the perceived temperature by the skin when exposed to moving air.

The wind chill index, for a given wind speed and a specific temperature, represents the perceived temperature as if there were no wind. (Source: Perugia Meteo)

In technical terms, “wind chill” refers to the decrease in perceived temperature relative to the actual atmospheric temperature due to the flow of air (wind) blowing over the skin.

The technical definition is based on the wind’s ability to remove heat from an individual’s skin, particularly from the thin layer of air, heated by the body, that lies directly on the skin’s surface. When the wind blows, this layer is removed, exposing the skin to lower temperatures. This causes the skin to lose heat more quickly, making the temperature feel colder than it actually is.

To quantify this effect numerically, various formulas have been developed over the years. These formulas consider variables such as wind speed and air temperature to calculate the “perceived temperature,” which represents how cold a person will feel the temperature under certain wind conditions.

In practice, when the wind blows on our skin, it accelerates the evaporation of sweat by removing surface heat from our bodies. As a result, our skin perceives a lower temperature than the actual environmental temperature.

The wind, therefore, with its cooling capability, plays a fundamental role in shaping our experience of weather conditions.

The wind chill effect has practical implications for our health and well-being, such as protecting us during heatwaves when the presence of wind can make conditions more bearable, reducing the risk of heatstroke or other heat-related conditions.

Although it can offer relief on hot days, it’s important to remember that it does not alter the actual air temperature. On an extremely hot day, even though the breeze might make us feel cooler, it does not actually reduce the danger associated with prolonged exposure to high temperatures.

Many technologies, such as our ColdAir adiabatic cooler, utilize the “wind chill” effect to cool environments, as does our range of ELITURBO air destratifiers when combined with a traditional air conditioning system.

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